After winning two games in a row, the USF women’s soccer team was looking to extend its longest winning streak in two years this weekend.
Not if DePaul or Florida State had anything to say about it.
On Friday night, the Bulls lost a heartbreaker as they dropped a 1-0 decision to Depaul and then lost 3-2 to FSU Sunday.
The first conference game of the year for USF started off as a tough match. The Bulls had only one shot on goal in the first half; however, they failed to convert several close opportunities. In the 22nd minute, senior forward Aleia Long launched a cross into the right side of the box to sophomore midfielder Kim Martins. Martins had an open net, but kicked it just over the net.
Then in the 27th minute, the Bulls were awarded a free kick, but senior midfielder Tia Opliger’s shot cleared the crossbar. A minute later, Opliger beat a Blue Demons defender as she went one-on-one with DePaul goalkeeper Lindsey Deason, but her shot went wide right.
It was a sluggish and mistake-filled first half for both teams as USF recorded four shots and nine fouls and DePaul had only one shot and seven fouls.
The Bulls couldn’t get much more offense going as they only had two shots in the second half. In the 68th minute, Martins launched a high corner kick across the box, but Opliger’s header just cleared the post.
With the score knotted at 0-0, the game appeared headed to overtime, but in the 89th minute, DePaul freshman Julianne Sitch scooped up a loose ball and ripped a low shot to the right post past diving goalkeeper Breck Bankester. With less than a minute to play, the Bulls were looking for an equalizer, but sophomore midfielder Tara Escribano’s left-footed shot hit the crossbar and was kicked away.
“I was concerned with the effort level we sustained in the 90 minutes. It had nothing to do with fitness,” Fleck said. “I told them we were a better team, but we didn’t show that tonight. We just didn’t play our brand of soccer.”
On Sunday, the Bulls were looking to get off to a fast start against the Seminoles, but one failed to materialize. The crowd of 563 watched FSU score three goals within a 25-minute span as the Bulls dug themselves into a deep hole.
In the 12th minute, FSU’s Amber Tollefson found the net with a shot that went into the left side.
Then in the 31st minute, FSU’s Katie Talley’s volley from Marion Cagle found the back of the net. Less than five minutes later, FSU’s Summer Corum scored from six yards out.
After getting out-shot 11-3 by FSU in the first half, Fleck gave his team one of his most rousing halftime talks of the year.
“I told them I believed in them, and I told them to get some respect of their own,” Fleck said. “We changed our total attitude, and it was absolutely like night and day.”
No less than two minutes into the half, the Bulls found their way onto the scoreboard. Starting from a corner kick, Martins delivered a perfect cross to the right post to a diving Opliger. Opliger’s header went past the diving goalkeeper as she notched her third goal of the year.
Then in the 68th minute, Berna Breirem ripped an 18-yard shot that hit the back of the net. It was Breirem’s first goal of the year and brought the Bulls to within one. USF had several more chances, but it wouldn’t threaten again as it watched FSU win its fifth game of the year.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our team,” Fleck said. “We’re a blue-collar team. I would absolutely like to beat them, but I feel we came into the game and played them harder than any other ACC team other than (UNC).”